Big Data: Agcom, Agcm and Data Protection Authority survey published


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The final report of the Big Data survey conducted jointly by the Italian Telecommunications Authority, the Competition Authority and the Data Protection Authority was published today at the end of an in-depth and productive collaboration. From three different and complementary perspectives, the survey examined, also through hearings and queries to businesses, trade associations and experts in the field, the changes resulting from Big Data on the users who provide the data, the companies that use it and, thus, the markets. The survey aims to also fully exploit possible synergies among the three Authorities and identify the most suitable tools for future enforcement.

Data has become increasingly important in recent years for economic activities, to such an extent that it can be considered not just the projection of a person in the digital world but also an economic resource in all respects, and actually the most important resource in many areas. Thanks to advances in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), organisations tend to collect data of all kinds, process it in real time to improve their decision-making processes and store it permanently in order to be able to reuse it in the future or extract new knowledge. Data creation is experiencing an exponential process: in 2018 the total volume of data created worldwide was 28 zettabytes (ZB), up more than ten times compared to 2011: by 2025 the total volume of data is expected to reach 163 ZB. This expansion, driven by the emergence of online platforms, will be further accelerated with the connection among objects and 5G applications. There are new challenges in this context: the centrality of the data, also as an economic asset, and the importance of its protection as a fundamental right of the individual; the impact of algorithmic profiling and online platforms on the degree of competition in old and new relevant markets; the effect of programmatic advertising on the quality of information and on the way it is disseminated and acquired; the protection and promotion of online pluralism in an information context exposed to strategies of disinformation and hate speech; the need to ensure transparency and effective choices to the consumer, in particular with regard toto protecting minors, in relation to consent to the use of their data; the protection of personal data even in areas not currently covered by the GDPR; the definition of education policies in relation to data usage.

This Sector Inquiry is divided into 5 chapters and a conclusion chapter. Chapter 1 introduces the topics covered by the Survey and provides a definition and description of the characteristics of Big Data. Chapter 2 addresses the main issues that emerged during the hearings and from the contributions of the participants in the Survey and the impact on the operations of Italian companies. In Chapter 3, AGCOM considers how the Big Data phenomenon affects the electronic communications and media sector. Chapter 4 reports the considerations of the Data Protection Authority on the possible impact of Big Data on the right to protect personal data and on the measures and precautions to be taken; Chapter 5 sets out AGCM’s considerations on using Big Data and the related antitrust and consumer protection implications. Finally, the concluding chapter describes the policy guidelines and recommendations addressed to the legislator. These include the commitment made by the three Authorities to defining a permanent cooperation mechanism in relation to enforcement and the study of the impact of Big Data on businesses, consumers and citizens.

Rome, 10 February 2020